Sunday, August 28, 2011

Martian Manhunter #6 (March, 2007)

In New York City, a SWAT team burst through the window of Rio Ferdinand, who was sleeping nude in bed. "Gee, if I'd known you boys were coming, I would'a made coffee.

At Middleton Woods Estates in Pennsylvania, J'Onn J'Onzz gathered his fellow Green Martians into one room like a parlor detective and announced that he suspected one of them in the murders of two humans. "Setting aside the shame you've brought upon our people, upon me, admit to your crime now and I promise I'll do everything in my powers to protect you." I love the emphasis on "me," as if the guy who has failed and browbeat this group constantly rated special standing.

Mica'kel was immediately indignant like a good red herring, which was pointless, since the reveal took up half of a facing page. Dal'en was the only Martian to stammer when asked point blank yes or no if he'd been up to some killin', like a child afraid of the switch. Given that mighty fine bit of dee-tectin' work, it's no wonder Dal'en was on J'Onzz, trying to gouge out his eyes with his friggin' thumbs, before the Manhunter from Mars could mount a defense. J'Onn had been offering Dal'en help, which was met by a left-field screech of "YOU CAN NOT HELP ME," which plays better if you imagine the voice as Richard O'Brien's in the last act of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Come to think of it, maybe the DCnÜ is just a delayed effect of Dal'en and Telok'Telar doing the Time Warp off-panel? J'Onn was all "You're among friends," but Dal'en was all butch please, "you have no idea-- what's been done..." before passing out. Hysterical.

Back in New York, the F.B.I. interrogated Rio over the murder of "Sully" Sullivan, based on a ten point match of her thumbprint on the field journal of Dr. Alex Ferguson. "Just so we're all on the same page... you're making a career-ending mistake here, fellas." Despite her bravado, Rio knew someone had purposefully blown her cover and fed her to the feds. One of her interrogators saw it in her eyes, and knowing she'd lose any tail they placed on her, thought it might be best to release her. That way, she could deal damage to her no doubt corrupt superiors, and on confirming she'd been sold out, would likely return the favor in kind.

In Gotham City, the Martian Manhunter felt uncomfortable about approaching Batman for a favor, especially in light of his estrangement from the Justice League. "It's ironic... although alien, Superman can be swayed by emotion. Batman, by contrast, is far more... exacting." Also, water is wet and a Martian probably shouldn't deal in xeno-stereotyping. The Dark Knight didn't feel it was safe for either of them to be meeting the other, and confirmed on questioning that one of J'Onn's Martians had killed the two D.E.O. agents. J'Onn felt that if there deaths were to have any meaning, Batman would turn over information on who ordered the transfer of Scorch from her captivity at S.T.A.R. Labs. "As a friend, I must ask you to trust me on this." In predictable fashion, Batman's answer was a simple, firm "No."

As Keane was returning home for the night in his limousine, Rio shot several of his guards and his driver in the head. Girl loves her head shots. "Give me one reason I shouldn't put one in you!" Keane explained that he had no reason to expose Rio, given that it would in turn expose him. Keane had previously suspected that Rio was in league with the presumed rogue Giggs, but with the evidence presented against Rio to the feds, now thought he might be after them both. Whoever was responsible, "I don't care what your job title is in the real world, Keane, I don't take the fall for anyone."

Lying unrestrained on a mattress elevated by a board and two sawhorses, Dal'en begged for death. His skin was now cracked and turning gray. "In the lab, they did something to me. I am not who you think I am. I'm not! I'm not myself!!" Dal'en could remember killing the two agents, but it was something like an out of body experience, and he now feared for his fellow Martians. "Please don't let me hurt the others."

J'Onzz consulted with the group and Sara Moore. He conveyed Dal'en's fear that he had been intentionally infected with the plague in the lab, and was still shocked a Martian could take a human life. J'Onzz sought confirmation through blood samples, and when Telok'Telar refused, one was taken by force. The samples would go with Moore to a friendly lab associate. Till'all would travel with her, while Telok'Telar and Mica'kel stayed to watch over Dal'en.

Her name is Rio and she visits Boston, Mass. Then in another panel, kindly shows her ass. And when she spies she hides evidence at Midland Savings & Loan. Oh Rio, Rio, how you plot when you're on your own. Also: U-Store Rental, Waterford, CT. I guess you can hit that many states on the Eastern Seaboard in a day. Here in Texas, you spend a day trying (sometimes vainly) to get out of Texas.

The Martian Manhunter tried to set Sara Moore up in a rundown abandoned lab at Spectrum Tech Corp. in Milbourne, PA. Moore thought J'Onzz surely had something of higher quality elsewhere, but "I'm afraid my access to any of the standard labs is no longer an option." Gee, and I thought having powers comparable to Superman's meant not needing that kind of Batman crap, like the car, the plane, or... the... butler? "Excuse me, Master J'Onn-- may I have a word with you? Alone?" Okay, where the effing H.E. Dubblehockeystix did Alfred Pennyworth come from? Alfred had recognized that Batman had really wanted to give J'Onn the information he had requested, but couldn't allow himself, so Alfred made a big show of doing it without Bruce's knowledge. In a story as poorly constructed and in as desperate a need for more exposition, we waste a page on this nonsense? I say again, non. sense. I could devote paragraphs to discussing how nonsensical just that one scene was, but the material doesn't rate that level of taxing exegesis.

Keane was the chief of Homeland Security. If you smashed through the window of his helicopter while in flight, gravely threatening the safety of its two pilots, F-16s would rightly blow your dumb Martian ass out of the sky. Never mind that once again, another character had to guide J'Onn J'Onzz to action, which is taken in the clumsiest manner possible, completely ignoring both the wealth of powers at the Alien Atlas' disposal and the horse sense of a remedial grade school kid. The reader was told the pilots ejected to safety, but that doesn't excuse unnecessarily wrecking million of dollars worth of government property. J'Onzz threatened Keane with a mind probe to extort information, and received a little verbally. Why not probe the murderous son of a bitch while he was in flight, causing no material harm and gaining a greater and more reliable degree of information from a subject beneath concern. Further, circular logic abounds, like Keane experimenting on the Martians because of the threat they posed because he experimented on and hunted the Martians after they escaped his experimenting on them because they were dangerous. That'll surely prove useful to know.

J'Onzz finally decided to mentally probe Keane, in midair, while being telepathically paged about Dal'en going berserk, requiring his urgent return, and attracting the attention of friggin' Superman. How many contrivances could a writer conjure up at once to prevent finally advancing the plot in a firm direction? None of which stops J'Onn's successfully arguing for a whole hour of extra time from Superman to prove Dal'en's relative innocence for a page and a half. Again, J'Onn J'Onzz is reduced to begging and indulgence from the Man of Steel in the series of which he is the titular star. Is this the worst issue of a terrible, terrible mini-series? My need for Excedrin Extra Strength and a multiple week gap in covering this god forsaken story indicates that it very well could be.

Sara Moore was having troubles with her lab samples spitting out skewed information, and suspected they might be contaminated. In her teleconference with the only Asian ever named Hollis, she called her working conditions "more gas station than lab." Till'all found some peanut butter that he seemed to like, but Sara Moore declined due to allergies. This led into an asinine observation about the human condition. Not so much stupid in itself, but when you reread this series, it makes you want to punch the writer in the ear for this song and dance. Further study revealed that the Martian blood samples were not compromised by virus, but simply "different" from expectations, presumably from J'Onn's baseline.

The Martian Manhunter found Telok'Telar and Mica'kel barely able to contain Dal'en, who was vomiting blood and increasingly violent. Surprisingly, the two healthy Martians wanted help from the Justice League, while J'Onn refused to turn Dal'en over. Dal'en got free, threw J'Onzz through a wall, and took flight. The Martian Manhunter streaked after Dal'en, finally catching up, and caught an albino tail around his neck. J'Onn thought of all his friends' warnings while he was blinded by hope, unable to see that Dal'en was in truth a White Martian in disguise.

"The Others Among Us Part 6" was by A.J. Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo and Bit. I'd be hard pressured to think of a series that calls more attention to how poorly thought out it is. Scenes in this book make me angry because I know from the perspective of having completed the series that they are pointless or nakedly manipulative to such a degree that they are outright cheats. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, like maybe this was a proposed twelve issue series cut down to eight partway through, with plots left hanging and characters folded into one another. I just can't see it though, because each issue reads more like an arbitrary eight issue length was assigned, and the writer just threw up a bunch of garbage to fill the page allotment each month. Either way, there's no excuse for such execrable results.

Compounding the author's failure is the improving work of artist Al Barrionuevo over the course of the run, as his layouts become more clear while maintaining a consistent, subdued mood. I also need to give thanks for the colors of Marta Martinez, which both complement the art perfectly and pick up the slack during Barrionuevo's lesser moments. You want to forgive the book when you toss through it, because it looks promising at glance, until the words get in the way. I'm so glad I decided to write the final issue synopsis three months in advance while doing research for series related character biographies. After these last few issues, I need the momentum of knowing I only have one more mountain of sludge to climb convey in my immediate future.

Brave New World


mathematicscore said...

Yeah, the Beavis and Butthead clip sums it up nicely; The writing here fails in every possible way. Bad concept, bad characterization, bad execution, boring, confusing, pointless. I agree that the art is actually a selling point. If this was as smart as say, Checkmate, this could have been a comparative success. Alas, it was not.

Tom Hartley said...

The tpb for this stinker tied with Showcase Presents Vol. 1 as the first ever Martian Manhunter collected edition. According to DC's website, both went on sale July 25th, 2007... over a half-century after the character's first appearance in 1955! And four years later, it's still the only color Martian Manhunter collected edition.

Diabolu Frank said...

Amazon gave "Others Among Us" a few weeks lead over Showcase, but the Spanish language market had "American Secrets" and two Ostrander/Mandrake volumes years earlier. Lucky, lucky Spaniards...

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

I liked it actually, good story. maybe i'm just not that well read. hard to believe that it's still the only color Martian Manhunter collected edition. Always the wingman, J'onn

Diabolu Frank said...

S-DTB, this series drove me nuts in trying to explain to third parties exactly what happened and why. In other words, it's got a lot in common with the Martian Manhunter comics of the '60s and '70s, making it far more of a spiritual successor than most solo stories published from the '80s on. Some of the inanities are endearing, and others appalling, but I think I've overall looked kindly upon the venture. It's just that this specific issue, especially in hindsight, is where you realize the plot is full of crap. Once I get past the series lying to my face and dipping into my pocket, I look upon it as a loveable rogue of a tale that I'm really glad I only paid about a buck an issue for well after the fact.

Do read "American Secrets" if you haven't already, though. Unheralded masterpiece with its own wealth of conspiratorial weirdness.

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

I read American Secrets, and it really WAS great- better than this one